On Sophistical Refutations

Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


We have now therefore dealt with the sources of questions, and the methods of questioning in contentious disputations: next we have to speak of answering, and of how solutions should be made, and of what requires them, and of what use is served by arguments of this kind.

The use of them, then, is, for philosophy, twofold. For in the first place, since for the most part they depend upon the expression, they put us in a better condition for seeing in how many senses any term is used, and what kind of resemblances and what kind of differences occur between things and between their names. In the second place they are useful for one’s own personal researches; for the man who is easily committed to a fallacy by some one else, and does not perceive it, is likely to incur this fate of himself also on many occasions. Thirdly and lastly, they further contribute to one’s reputation, viz. the reputation of being well trained in everything, and not inexperienced in anything: for that a party to arguments should find fault with them, if he cannot definitely point out their weakness, creates a suspicion, making it seem as though it were not the truth of the matter but merely inexperience that put him out of temper.

Answerers may clearly see how to meet arguments of this kind, if our previous account was right of the sources whence fallacies came, and also our distinctions adequate of the forms of dishonesty in putting questions. But it is not the same thing take an argument in one’s hand and then to see and solve its faults, as it is to be able to meet it quickly while being subjected to questions: for what we know, we often do not know in a different context. Moreover, just as in other things speed is enhanced by training, so it is with arguments too, so that supposing we are unpractised, even though a point be clear to us, we are often too late for the right moment. Sometimes too it happens as with diagrams; for there we can sometimes analyse the figure, but not construct it again: so too in refutations, though we know the thing on which the connexion of the argument depends, we still are at a loss to split the argument apart.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "16," On Sophistical Refutations, trans. W. A. Pickard-Cambridge Original Sources, accessed May 31, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GYL8JTZHB8JMNUR.

MLA: Aristotle. "16." On Sophistical Refutations, translted by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge, Original Sources. 31 May. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GYL8JTZHB8JMNUR.

Harvard: Aristotle, '16' in On Sophistical Refutations, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 31 May 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GYL8JTZHB8JMNUR.